Archive for category Organizational Science
by: Yudo Anggoro, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
If we are discussing culture in organizations, there are four essential traits that we need to consider, that are involvement, consistency, adaptability, and mission (Denison and Mishra, 1995). Involvement and adaptability are said to be indicators of flexibility, openness, and responsiveness; and strong predictors of growth. Consistency and mission are indicators of integration, direction, and vision, and are suitable predictors for profitability. Denilson and Mishra (1995) also find that organizational culture might influence organizational effectiveness predictors, such as quality, employee satisfaction, and employee performance.
Organizational culture is essential because it shapes the habits, skills, and style from which people construct strategies of action in the organization (Swindler, 1986). Culture itself consists of symbolic vehicles of meaning, including beliefs, ritual, practices, art forms, and ceremonies, as well as informal cultural practices such as language, gossip, stories, and ritual of daily life. In a society, culture has a function to influence human action through values. An interesting notion in this article is that a culture is not a unified system that pushes action in a consistent direction. It is more like a “tool kit” from which actors select differing pieces for constructing actions. In this notion, culture provides freedom for people to choose different strategies to pursue their goals. Therefore, culture does not always drive people to the same direction like what vision and mission do. However, this function of culture is only working properly in a settled cultural period where values are playing a central role in a society.
Barley et al. (1998) conduct an interesting study to assess whether members of two subcultures, academics and practitioners have influenced each other’s interpretations. Specifically, this study focuses on the changes in the language that members of different subcultures use to frame an issue. The findings of this study show that academics appear to have moved towards the practitioners’ point of view, while practitioners appear to have been little influenced by academics. This evidence shows the acculturation between academics and practitioners. Similarly, these findings deny the diffusion theory that says knowledge flows from academics to practitioners. Although this study argues that language is the basic form of acculturation, perhaps it is better to incorporate these findings with other forms of acculturation, such as behavior, belief, practice, and ritual so that we can get thorough comprehension of acculturation between academics and practitioners.
Another interesting study from Weick (1993) analyzes the collapse of sense-making in the organization by reanalyzing the Mann Gulch fire disaster in Montana described in Maclean’s (1992) book to illustrate a gap in our current understanding of organizations. He argues that there is an unsuspected source of vulnerability in organization, and small organizations are susceptible to sudden losses of meaning. Loss of meanings occurs because of fundamental surprises, or events that are inconceivable, or incomprehensible. People act as if events cohere in time and space and that change unfolds in an orderly manner. When they are severely disrupted, people lose their sense-making. People will not have any ideas where they are and what they should do. People become irrational. This study notes the importance of wisdom, as an attitude taken by persons towards the beliefs, values, knowledge, information, and skills that are held, a tendency to doubt that these are necessarily true or valid and to doubt that they are an exhaustive set of those things that could be known.
We might conclude that organizational culture is not directional guidelines for directing the actions of individuals within organization, but culture has an important role in shaping our way of thinking, beliefs, and behavior. Values are important in determining the impact of culture in shaping our strategies for action in the organization, and perhaps it is similar as what Weick (1993) calls as wisdom.
Swidler, A. (1986). Culture in action: symbols and strategies. American Sociological Review, Vol. 51:273-86.
Denison, D. R. and Mishra, A.K. (1995). Toward a theory of organizational culture and effectiveness. Organization Science, Vol. 6:204-223.
Weick, K.E. (1993). The collapse of sense-making in organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly,Vol. 38:628-52.
Barley, S.R., Meyer, G.W. and Gash, D.C. (1988). Cultures of culture: academics, practitioners and the pragmatics of normative control. Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 33:24-60.